Five years ago — seems like a few minutes!

Yesterday’s blog post about the old Sutherland Post Office attracted a lot of interest, and the whole thing led to my gaining two more Facebook friends! I have been back to that post and added in a Google Street View of the site today. Do look.

Today I revisit April 2016. First, foreshadowing tomorrow:

Happily tugging my forelock: the Queen at 90

Posted on  by Neil

Earlier posts on Elizabeth R include Random Friday memory 28: seeing the Coronation from Sutherland (2015), The young princess and her 1933 wave (2015), Fairy Sparkle and the Old Queen (2014), Diamond Queen (2012), Oz Republic? (2008). In 1999 I voted in the referendum for the republic. In 2008 I wrote:

It will happen, no doubt about it, by 2050 if not by 2020. I honestly cannot imagine the current constitutional arrangements carrying on for all that much longer, but by 2050 I will of course be long dead. I guess though that at that time Australian Monarchists will seem rather like the Jacobites in McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series, and like those Jacobites they will probably still be having meetings. (The irony for the Jacobites is that they resent the displacement of the true monarchs of Scotland by the German Princeling George I, and instead look to another German Princeling, that of Bavaria, as the True Monarch. It’s true that the nearest descendant of James II is a Prince of Bavaria, but that line long since relinquished any claim themselves.)

Meanwhile, reading as I am the wonderful and sometimes cantankerous Norman Davies, this time Europe East & West, I should like to point out, as he does, that the last Queen of England was Anne. Since 1707 there have been no English monarchs as such; Elizabeth II (or perhaps to be quite accurate Elizabeth I) is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but not, technically, of England. All of which no longer has any direct relevance to Australia, but she ALSO happens to be Queen of Australia, and in that role is her connection with us. (See for the current position The Australia Act 1986.) Then there is of course the somewhat vaguer, but still I believe useful, Commonwealth, of which she is the head duly recognised by quite a few republics….

By 2012 I was saying:

I am not normally disturbed one way or the other by the fact Australia is a constitutional monarchy whose Head of State may or may not be an old lady who lives in England. (It is either her or the Governor-General, depending on who you ask or where you look.) As far as I am concerned the whole odd thing has a certain charm, and it works. Every time I see the ongoing saga of a US Presidential Election I am rather glad we are at least spared that – and spared the spectacle of turning the judiciary into yet another gaggle of elected politicians.

So roll on the Diamond Jubilee, as far as I am concerned. And I like the Queen…

And today with the Queen just turned 90 I may have moved even further, to the point where I am not sure big men in red bandanas really excite me into voting for a republic any time soon.


Yesterday I watched the 2002 telemovie Bertie and Elizabeth. First, it isn’t nearly as good as the 2010 The King’s Speech. But it isn’t all that bad either. There are some splendid performances: Robert Hardy as Roosevelt, for one, and David Ryall as Churchill. On the other hand Wallis Simpson is rendered rather as the Wicked Witch from the West – cartoonish. And there are some notable goofs.

A British Movietone Newsreel, complete with commentary, shows the Duke of York attending the Empire Exhibition at Wembley. This visit took place in October 1925 – not only is this four years before Movietone News began in Britain, but it is two years before sound film was invented. The Exhibition was covered by British Pathe News but the film is of course silent.

But I enjoyed revisiting the story nonetheless. See Review of Bertie And Elizabeth and a very thorough backgrounder on the Canadian blog Enchanted Serenity of Period Films:  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth – a peek into the past.


Still from Bertie and Elzabeth: death of George VI  in 1952

young kids

George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the present Queen in 1926 (left) and with the two princesses (right).


Conversation at City Diggers with a retired wharf labourer —  proud to be a leftie. “What do you think of the monarchy?” he asked. Turns out he is all in favour of it these days! You never know, do you?

That wharfie was a great friend and conversationalist — Terry Carney. He passed away earlier this year.

China-related: Jiawei Shen, Michael Wood, Du Fu

Posted on  by Neil

News item from ABC:

Former serviceman in the Chinese Army Jiawei Shen has been awarded the 2016 Gallipoli Art Prize for his depiction of Anzac mateship.

The Chinese-born Australian artist won the award for his work Yeah, Mate! which he said captured what the Anzac spirit meant to him: mateship, courage and humour – even in the darkest times.

The large-scale oil painting is an adaptation of a black and white photograph which hangs in London’s Imperial War Museum, and shows an Australian digger carrying an injured soldier over his shoulders at Gallipoli.

The photograph by Ernest Brooks has no name but includes the caption, “At Anzac Cove, an Australian bringing in a wounded comrade to hospital. The men were cracking jokes as they made their way down from the front”…


See also my 2008 post Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings – the art of Jiawei Shen.

Then last night I watched with great delight Episode 2 of Michael Wood’s The Story of China—SBS 7.30. See The Story of China, episode two, review: ‘a delightful travelling companion’.

As he constantly reminded us, many of the attributes we associate with modern China – its status as trade hub, manufacturing powerhouse and global superpower – were also features of the Tang era. Standing in Xi’an, the old imperial city on the Grand Canal that marks the eastern end of the Silk Road, he reminded us that the canal (still in heavy use) was cut by hand in 605 by five million people, at a time when China’s manufacturing and export accounted for an estimated 55 per cent of gross world product. From Xi’an, “probably the first city in history to employ artificial lighting on a large scale”, China was also exporting religion, culture, language and, since woodblock printing was invented in this period, the technology of learning as well. It exerted on the East, as Wood put it, “an influence as profound as that of Rome on the Latin West”.

I was especially taken by the classroom scenes dealing with the Tang poets Bai Juyi. Li Bai and Du Fu. From the MayaVision site: “This was very impressive. We filmed in a school in Yanshe where the students teach me a Tang poem by the Chinese Shakespeare, Du Fu, about the cataclysms of the 750s.”


Wonderful. A tiny snippet of Li Bai from Leonard Durso’s blog:

from Fighting South of the Ramparts by Li Po (Li Bai)

What have the generals accomplished?
what they know
is less than what we’ve learned–

a sword’s a stinking thing
a wise man will use
as seldom as he can.

translated by David Young

And from Du Fu’s “Song of the Wagons”:

…We’re always driven onwards just like dogs and chickens.
Although an elder can ask me this,
How can a soldier dare to complain?
Even in this winter time,
Soldiers from west of the pass keep moving.
The magistrate is eager for taxes,
But how can we afford to pay?
We know now having boys is bad,
While having girls is for the best;
Our girls can still be married to the neighbours,
Our sons are merely buried amid the grass.
Have you not seen on the border of Qinghai,
The ancient bleached bones no man’s gathered in?
The new ghosts are angered by injustice, the old ghosts weep,
Moistening rain falls from dark heaven on the voices’ screeching.”


Du Fu

See also Four Poems on War By Chinese poets translated by Geoff Waters.

At the Frontier by Xu Hun (791?- late 850s)

We fought all night, north of the Sanggan River;
Of our forces, half did not return.
When morning came, so did mail from home;
Families still sending dead men warm clothes for winter.

And finally:

My blog is all about getting older!

Posted on  by Neil

When I adopted that badge on my old blog some years ago I guess it foreshadowed what my blogs would really become.

Post after post is about nostalgia, no matter what the surface topic may be. Yesterday is a good example. I bring this up because two recently read items inspire me.

First a fellow septuagenarian, our blogging friend Ramana from Pune. Look at his latest posts The Old Days and Aging. From them I have borrowed these.


Well, one might hope so…. But I can apply this to my own posts in recent years: “Oddly enough, the last week’s post on The Old Days somehow leads naturally to this topic as after all it is the aged who want to talk or write about them.”

Then today in the Sun-Herald  Sydney’s most colourful barrister and model for TV’s Rake, Charles Waterstreet, writes Nothing is gentle about going towards that good night. It is one of his best columns, but then that opinion may reflect how much I see myself in some of what he says.

Your diary fills up with doctors not dates, you spend spare nights inspecting dark spots on your body and compare the phone picture you took with Dr Google’s array of suspicious spots. The sun has been a harsh mistress, a cruel dominatrix. Who knew? …

You worry about dementia, but you forgot where you put the book on its symptoms. It’s one thing to feel old, but you dread worse, that you look old. You know you’re on your last legs when more and more people, upon greeting you, say how well you’re looking. You wonder which will be your last Olympics….

After all, I did call my blog before this one Neil’s final decade!

...a name perhaps more apposite to this one!

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